Quartet Patria was created on November 7th, 1939, in Santiago de Cuba. Its founder was Francisco Cobas la O (Pancho).
At the beginning, the members were Pancho, Emilia García, Rigoberto Hechavarría (Maduro) y Feliberto. Sometimes, a musician called Corales (his last name) who played the botija joined them. The botija is an instrument with a very peculiar sound that is almost disused now.
The group was called Patria after the newspaper founded by Cuban national hero José Martí. Besides, it was also the pseudonym adopted by Emilia García, who had contributed to previous revolutionary struggles. The musicians decided honoured her by using that name for the group and, at the same time, they fought discrimination against women this way.
Cuarteto Patria (Aristotle Limonta, Joaquín Solórzano, Francisco Cobas and Eliades Ochoa) in the Céspedes Park in Santiago de Cuba. Photo: Eliades Ochoa Personal Archive
From its beginning, the group was focused on the music inherited from relevant Cuban figures: Ñico Saquito, Miguel Matamoros and Los Compadres. The Quartet included maracas, acoustic contrabass and guitar.
They performed at carnivals and popular parties. They also offered serenades and took part in descargas (improvised live sessions) at bars and cafeterias. The Quartet Patria was particularly assiduous to the musical and literary meetings (called tertulias) in Heredia Street, in Santiago de Cuba. The artists met in a venue where Virgilio Palay had placed a shop window and some chairs to sale rum, aguardiente, fried fish, frituras, cigarettes and cigars.
In that context, the descargas became more and more popular. Other musicians also began to play there. Pucho el Pollero, Ángel Almenares, Emiliando Bles, Salvador Adams, Ramón Márquez, el Chino, Cornelio, and Manolo Castillo were among the most relevant.
Another popular place was Calité bar, located at Trocha Street, corner to Santa Rita Street. The Matamoros Trio, Los Compadres and a great number of fans used to go there too.
After the Triumph of the Revolution in 1959
Cuban musicians had new opportunities. Art workshops, Culture houses, Art schools, among other new institutions devoted to Art and Culture were founded. As a result, the quartet had more places to perform and gained access to broader audiences.
Emilia died at the end of 1960 due to a long illness. Nonetheless, the group continued as part of the Casa de la Trova.
From 1970 on, new musicians joined Patria. One of them was Hilario Cuadras, who played the maracas and sang as prime voice.
Hilario Cuadras, Aristóteles Limonta, Francisco Cobas and Eliades Ochoa.
Eliades Ochoa and Francisco Cobas.
Francisco Cobas, director of the quarter, asked Ochoa to replace him. Ochoa assumed the position at the beginning of 1979.
Since 1970 until now, as a music director, Ochoa has intended to keep the elegance of the group when interpreting Cuban traditional music genres such as: sones montunos, guajiras, changüíes, guarachas and boleros.
He transformed the group’s original format by adding percussion, guitars, bongo, cencerros, claves, and finally a contrabass, trumpets and a new vocal arrange. His style as a guitarist contributed with the group’s distinctiveness.
Patria was declared the Best Group of Cuban Traditional Music.
The group performed during the Adolfo Guzmán Festival, celebrated at Karl Marx theatre in Havana
Patria took part in Varadero International Festival. That year the group recorded its first album, named Harina de maíz criolla, with Siboney Studies in Santiago de Cuba.
In addition, they also had their first international tour: they took part in the Carifesta, with presentations in Grenada, Barbados y Curazao.
De izquierda a derecha, Benito Suárez, Juaquín Solórzano, Armando Machado, Eliades Ochoa y Compay Segundo.
Eliades Ochoa met Francisco Repilado (Compay Segundo), thanks to Francisco Cobas. Compay Segundo had dropped away from music interpretation and he spent the time only composing and making cigars.
Compay handed Ochoa a cassette with some of his compositions. Among them, it was the Chan Chan. From that moment, Patria played Compay’s songs and he joined the group in some presentations such as those in Martinica, Guadalupe y Santo Domingo.
Both musicians cultivated a long friendship which led to Compay’s return to Cuban music scene.
Compay Segundo participated as Patria’s guest in the 20th Festival of Traditional Cultures at the Smithsonian Folways in Washington.
In that occasion, they received distinctions for their diffusion work of traditional Cuban culture. After those encounters, Patria recorded its second album: “Chanchaneando con Compay Segundo”.
Cover of the album "Chanchaneando con Compay Segundo"
ELIADES OCHOA AND THE GRUPO PATRIA
In general, the quartet has collaborated with a wide range of musicians: Faustino Oramas (El Guayabero), Compay Segundo, Rey Caney, Charlie Musselwhite, Blof Umoja, Buena fe, Hermanas Ferrín, and Luis Eduardo Aute, among others.
At the moment, the group’s repertory continues reflecting the essence of traditional popular songs. Patria has got more than 20 albums resealed by labels such as EGREM, Bis Music, Virgin and Corason.
Patria and Malian musicians recorded the album AfroCubism.
In that year, the album is selected by National Geographic as the best album worldwide. Two years later, it was nominated to a Grammy Award.
CURRENT MEMBERS OF THE GRUPO PATRIA
Leader, voice, guitar
Maracas, güiro, choir
Bongos, congas, choir